Illinois State University freshman Kerem Tasdan has an innate curiosity about the world around him, made perfectly clear from the wide range of activities he was involved with at Macomb High School. That list included math club, theatre, cross country and swimming, and volunteer work at the local museum, just to name a few.

He seeks connections with each experience. Because of his involvements, the former president of his school’s National Honor Society frequently interacts with people who have different viewpoints, inspiring him to one day pursue international relations.

“I really think some of the most important things are trying new experiences and being open-minded,” said Tasdan, who also volunteers at the Islamic Center of Macomb. “One could argue that having those leadership skills and communications skills have growing importance in the workplace.”

Tasdan felt Illinois State, which offers more than 400 registered student organizations (RSOs), was a great place for him to continue and even expand his civic interests. The University, with an enrollment of just over 20,000, hosts students from urban, suburban, and rural areas coming together for the common goal of walking away with a Redbird degree.

“It’s a great combo with the financial aid being offered,” Tasdan said. “Small enough to get to know everyone but large enough for the great opportunities.”

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At Macomb High School, Tasdan actively participated in class discussions and listened to other voices in the room. While the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic forced his final semester to go online, he still engaged his school community by reading morning announcements every day that aired on the district’s website. Tasdan’s role was including a “this day in history” segment, in which he often dressed in character to emphasize the importance of that event.

“One of the things that he is modeling the most in all of those community activities is just his genuine curiosity about the world,” said Molly Selders, an English teacher at Macomb High School. “He just finds it fascinating, and he makes that clear to everybody through his participation. When you meet him, you get a sense that things really matter to him.”

That was evident last spring as Tasdan helped organize a student voter registration drive with his local League of Women Voters chapter. He would visit classrooms in his school with a tablet and pass around a link for students to hop on and register hassle-free. While the pandemic shut down those physical efforts last school year, he continues to promote getting young people to the polls.

“Our age group is unfortunately not always represented in the variety of social and economic and political decisions that are often made in our society, so it’s important for us to have our say,” he said.

Tasdan looks forward to getting involved with the many opportunities inside the classroom and RSOs at Illinois State University, where he feels he can continue making a difference in a world that fascinates him so much.

Read about all of the students featured in our “Newest Redbirds” series at